Humour is the most powerful and effective in the broad spectrum of human emotions. And an equally freeing, liberating experience. As easy as it may seem, it’s also one of the most difficult to portray on screen. Few Bollywood directors have aced this genre. Several filmmakers, at different points in time, have smartly and meaningfully used humour to bring to the forefront taboo issues, we’ve otherwise balked talking about. And, we could all use a good laugh, more so, in times like these. So here’s bringing you the best Bollywood comedy movies of all time:
1. Padosan (1968)
Director: Jyoti Swaroop
Padosan is the quintessential classic Bollywood romantic comedy. It features acting greats like Kishore Kumar, Saira Banu and Sunil Dutt. The movie uses the most basic of romantic tropes. It pits the underqualified lover in a battle against the perfect woman – a quest to win her heart. Padosan takes stock characters like the mousy lover, the cool mentor who easily solves problems, the tsundere girl, who eventually falls in love with the underdog, and of course, the stuck up music teacher who shines in the song, ‘Ek Chatur Naar’, with the amazing comedic musical arguments with Kishore Kumar’s Vidyapati. Brilliant comic timings along with hilarious song sequences drive the narrative.
2. Chupke Chupke (1975)
Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Chupke Chupke was a star-studded affair of its time featuring actors like Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan and Om Prakash. The film, itself is a brilliant comedy of errors. We witness Dharmendra take on many different roles as he disguises himself, first as a watchman and then as a driver. The first one was to help a man meet his son but he did it the second time in order to fool his brother who was viewed by his newly-wed wife as an ideal figure. The comedy ensues as there is a lot of confusion regarding identities. The protagonist not only disguises himself but to cover for himself and other things, he convinces others to assume different identities as well. The confusion that this creates is hilarious and takes the comedy to a whole new level.
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3. Gol Maal (1979)
Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Ah! The original Gol Maal. The film that inspired countless sequels, remakes and reiterations! It’s the kind of film that never gets old even with repeat viewings.
In times of superstars like Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna, came along an actor, a common man’s hero – who had already proved his mettle with films like Choti Si Baat , Chitchor – Amol Palekar, delivering yet another gem. A film that would go on to become a cult in the comedy genre. That he had beaten these very two actors to a Filmfare Award that year wasn’t as surprising as it reinstating the audiences’ belief in his talent. His collaboration with veteran Utpal Dutt took the film to another level. Dutt won the Best Actor in a Comic Role and Palekar the Best Actor Award that year.
4. Angoor (1982)
Angoor is another comedy of errors starring two talented actors, Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma in dual roles. It is a remake of Do Dooni Chaar, which itself is a remake of Bhrantibilas. The main plot of the film is driven by destiny and coincidence. It focuses on two pairs of twins. The interesting fact is that the pair of twins have the same names because their father have a weird logic that since they look alike, they should be named the same.
So now, we have two Ashoks and two Bahadurs. Some events lead to one pair of Ashok and Bahadur being separated from the other pair at childhood. They go on to live their own separate lives, until one day, they fatefully meet again. This meeting leads to a lot of chaos in their lives. And the hilarity that ensues takes this genre to another level.
With masterclass director Gulzar at the helm and a solid ensemble cast, Angoor was a defining film for a genre which until then hadn’t really evolved or experimented with, in Hindi cinema.
5. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983)
Director: Kundan Shah
The dark comedy was a satirical take on corruption in the government, businesses, bureaucracy and the media.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron wasn’t meant for its time. And it’s no fault of the film. In an era like the 1980s, filled with masala, romance and campy tear-jerkers, as well as the inability to get out of the disco fad, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron was no escapist fare.
The ensemble cast – Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Ravi Baswani, Pankaj Kapur, Satish Shah, Satish Kaushik, Bhakti Barve, Neena Gupta wowed us with their ultra comical and unforgettable performances.
6. Andaz Apna Apna (1994)
Director: Rajkumar Santoshi
This cult classic starring Amir Khan and Salman Khan, Karishma Kapoor, Raveena Tandon, Paresh Rawal, Shakti Kapoor is a laugh riot. It utilises both dialogues and situational comedy. The film also uses some overly eccentric characters that add a lot of colour to the film as a whole.
The iconic crime master Gogo, for example. His dialogue, “Aakhein nikalke gotiya khelunga” has such a weird ring to it. Yet, when Shakti Kapoor delivers it in his trademark comic style, it becomes infinitely funny. There is a certain charm to this film that is unavoidable and unignorable.
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7. Hera Pheri (2000)
A prime blend of physical comedy and situational humor, Hera Pheri too is a cult classic. It gave us the iconic character, Babu Bhaiya (Paresh Rawal), whose funniness goes above and beyond the limits.
Paresh Rawal, Akshay Kumar, and Sunil Shetty share a great chemistry on screen and brilliantly perfected comic timings.
This was Priyadarshan at his hilarious best.
8. Munnabhai MBBS (2003)
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Munnabhai MBBS takes up the concept of fulfilment in life and pits it against academic and societal success. The movie is an amazing satire on society today that values money over morals. Its comedy style is poignant and hard-hitting, and its often over-the-top tone lends itself to a very unique juxtaposition of the ideal and the material.
Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi share great chemistry. Together, they’re like a house on fire.
The comedy is often coupled with a slew of emotional scenes, which makes the payoff even more satisfying.
9. Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006)
Director: Dibakar Banerjee
Banerjee’s directorial debut turned heads instantly. The film resonated deeply with the Indian (especially Delhi) middle class, as Banerjee, through the masterful performance of Anupam Kher, brings to life the everyday struggles of an ordinary middle-class man, with mounting bills. The movie takes a leap into the darker side of everyday existence. It shows us the pains and regular sufferings that people go through without complaining while instilling a great sense of dark humour into it. Such a design choice is seen very rarely and occasionally in the Bollywood film scenario.
Banerjee explored the side of the city, capturing its essence and culture as no filmmaker had done before. He integrated character into the city itself, making it a living breathing being, influencing the purview of the overall film.
10. 3 Idiots (2009)
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
One of the biggest grossing films of our time, 3 Idiots is a timeless comedy that exudes the same freshness each time.
The modern philosophy towards education coupled with extremely fun and intelligent comedy leading to the formation of a plot that is both engaging and inspiring.
It’s Hirani’s simple yet emotionally enticing stories that touch a nerve with audiences. Here too, Hirani manages to regale us with his simplistic storytelling and oodles of laughter in a film that has us constantly rooting for its characters.
11. Delhi Belly (2011)
Director: Abhinay Deo
This was not your typical Bollywood fare. A black comedy, Delhi Belly revolved around the life of three roommates – a journalist, a photographer and a cartoonist. A host of confusions arise as they get involved in a gang battle when a package to be delivered to a gangster gets mixed up with stool samples. Imagine the hilarity of the situation and couple that with what ensues. But the bigger task was to have effectively pulled it all off with the desired impact. And Delhi Belly is a smart, crackling comedy thanks to a taut, clever script by Akshat Verma and masterful direction by Abhinay Deo.
12. Pyaar Ka Punchnama (2011)
Director: Luv Ranjan
Luv Ranjan’s brand of comedy and romance doesn’t entail the typical boy-meets-girl and happily ever afters. It’s what comes after. And that his films tell stories from a male perspective – the boy’s side of the story – is what differentiates it from other Bollywood romcoms.
(In Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, he gave us a female villain. Now how often do we see women antagonists in a Bollywood love story?)
His hilarious, near-realistic take on modern-day relationships in Pyar Ka Punchnama and the ability to find humor in the smaller details is refreshing in times when most mainstream Bollywood movies are churning out crass, mindless humor.
13. Vicky Donor (2012)
Director: Shoojit Sircar
How often does mainstream Bollywood give you a film that is bold, funny, entertaining while making you think and question your beliefs along the way? Vicky Donor was a breath of fresh air and a lesson in how mainstream cinema can entertain while being meaningful. And Ayushmann Khurana was a pioneer of sorts for this new wave of cinema. Solid, realistic performances all round add to this well-written and executed comedy-drama.
14. Go Goa Gone (2013)
Director: Krishna D.K., Raj Nidimoru
This one is a well-written and executed film in a genre uncommon for mainstream Bollywood. How often have we explored horror comedy in the past? It’s a bonus when we get it right. Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK’s attempt at zombie comedy is a funfest – of murder, gore, mindless violence, comedy, and some very awkward characters and settings. The proceedings never lose pace and have our attention throughout. The film takes a very light-hearted and almost trivialised approach towards death which is both funny and alarming at the same time, as it entertains us while questioning our sensitivity to this tragic concept.
15. Fukrey (2013)
Director: Mrighdeep Singh Lamba
Fukrey centres around four good-for-nothing teenagers trying to make easy money. It trails their adventures and misadventures through bizarre coincidences. Although the movie relies a bit too much on this formula, it still packs a heavy punch. It started off a bit slow but has now become a sleeper hit with a huge cult following. And there is a lot of well-deserved worth behind it. The movie takes dreamers and puts them through ordeals that are both inspiring and hilarious.
The ensemble cast – Pulkit Samrat, Varun Sharma, Manjot Singh, Ali Fazal, Pankaj Tripathi deserve every bit of credit for the success of this film.
Another mainstream Bollywood film with a female villain. Richa Chadha as Bholi Punjaban was brilliant.
16. Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015)
Director: Sharat Katariya
Another untypical Bollywood romantic comedy. Stereotypes be damned, Sharat Katariya weaves a realistic tale of love, infusing situational humour in the journey of a mismatched couple. It showcases very realistic, human characters while maintaining a humorous side to them.
The film has its emotional moments, which have been crafted masterfully but never steers from its comic roots. Striking this perfect balance is never a small feat. But the film effortlessly manages to achieve it; a synergy between the sensitive and the humorous; the emotional and the comical.
17. Stree (2018)
Director: Amar Kaushik
Horror comedy is a barely explored, if not a completely unwalked territory for Hindi cinema. We’ve only scratched the surface. But with Raj and DK’s zombie horror Go Goa Gone (2013) and now Stree (2018), we’ve come a step closer to justifying the genre.
From the atmospherics to the sound design, cinematography (Amalendu Chaudhary) to the performances, Stree has a lot going for it. It seamlessly blends several elements — comedy, horror, satire, commentary on gender bias.
Like all unusual, inexplicable ghost stories we’ve grown up watching, here too we’re served with a tale that defies easy explanations but one that draws you right in. There’s no time for why-abouts when you’re already warned with a ‘based on a ridiculous phenomenon’ disclaimer. Credits also to the writers (Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK) and the director (Amar Kaushik) who keep you riveted in this imaginative tale, which, if not in good hands, could’ve possibly looked outrageously silly.
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18. Badhaai Ho (2018)
Director: Amit Sharma
Having a good story and the knack to tell one is two things. It’s a double delight when a film promises both. It isn’t just a fresh idea and a compelling narrative that works for Badhaai Ho. The modern-day rom-com drama fires on all cylinders: taut writing, crisp editing and superlative performances all round make it one of the best viewing experiences of the year. And while it ticks all boxes, what rounds it out is its genuine, engaging charm, a scarce screen commodity in Hindi cinema.
Badhaai Ho stays true to and well justifies its genre. It doesn’t solely rely on barbed, punchy one-liners to bring in the humour. Writer Akshat Ghildial intelligently and subtly infuses humour into the narrative; director Amit Sharma effectively recognises and pulls it off while the characters comfortably lend themselves it. The beauty of the film lies in how it manages to keep the humour alive even in the most emotional moments. The film flows organically thanks to a talented ensemble.
Recommended: Badhaai Ho (2018) Review: Smart Writing, Effortlessly Engaging
By Deepjyoti Roy, Mansi Dutta